Warm summer days. Dust and heat. The grass has yellowed and the cicadas sing. The early afternoon sun has force and the orchard trees revel in the heat. There’s little wind to speak of and the activities of the birds sound far louder than usual. The sounds of mankind have diminished. It’s quiet up here.
Earlier today I travelled to a nearby town to purchase some timber supplies for the new shed project. The roads between here and there were quiet, and the town itself seemed far quieter than usual. At least I was able to obtain the timber supplies, and I was quietly grateful for that.
Obtaining supplies has become something of a challenge. With a few infrastructure projects to complete, the Editor and I have discussed this matter at length. We’ve also asked around with suppliers. They’re happy to discuss the supply and people problems that they are having. And you’d have to be living under a rock to have not noticed other inexplicable shortages here and there about the economic landscape.
We’ve worked out that in order to obtain supplies of stuff like timber, we’re having to purchase chemically treated timber (against rot or termites) and of unusual sizes and lengths. People working in the trades don’t want these, or can’t use them due to building codes, cost concerns or engineering specifications. It pays to be unfussy about such things these days, and heck it’s not as if the people working in the trades can get all of the supplies they want anyway.
The problem is that the supplies we are obtaining for various projects around the farm cost a good deal more than they once did. Even heading out for dinner these days also costs far more. That’s inflation for you. Bizarrely, my day to day experience does not reflect the official statistics on the subject.
The thing is, I can’t recall ever experiencing this sort of rapid increase in prices combined with supply issues. The official inflation statistics suggests that the previous spike occurred in 1974, which coincided with the worldwide Oil Crisis. And let’s not mention that the following year the Queen’s representative sacked the Federal Government due to issues surrounding economic matters. No wonder I don’t remember that year, I was busy worrying about whether I should take a dump in my nappies, what’s for dinner, or should I have a massive cry – or maybe all three at once?
I’ve experienced recessions for sure, and poverty, well I know a thing or two about that. But this inflation thing is a new one for me. For a long time now I’ve wondered about the Modern Monetary Theorists claim (in it’s most base form) that printing money and so expanding the money supply doesn’t matter. Their theories admittedly have greater sway on economic events than my own beliefs. But I dunno, I believe that expanding the money supply will mean that there will be more money chasing the same amount of stuff, and this leads to higher prices. Maybe I’m wrong, but I believe paying inflated prices for stuff does matter – to me at least.
History is a good guide to economics, although this is an unfashionable perspective in these enlightened days. I believe that Modern Monetary Theory has its roots in Keynesian economic theory. The theory was so named after the British economist John Maynard Keynes developed it during The Great Depression of the 1930’s. Back then, there was stuff to buy, but few people had any mad cash with which to purchase the stuff. So, the economist advocated for increased government expenditures and lowering taxes so as to stimulate demand and pull the global economy out of the depression. To put things in more simple terms, governments needed to borrow more mad cash, thus expanding the money supply. And then they had to go and spend it. That extra mad cash floating around got people on the street spending mad cash at other businesses, which in turn created opportunities for employment and so on.
World War II sure put that theory to the test, if only because governments had to borrow heaps of mad cash in order to fight the war. Demand for products and services went through the roof. I’ve read histories which suggested that price controls were implemented so that inflation did not become a problem. But given the government was probably the biggest consumer of stuff in those years, the price controls would have been easy to enforce. And the economies which weren’t bombed to smithereens, bounced back in the aftermath of that war, and even many of those which were thoroughly bombed did pretty well.
The risk is that all policies can be taken to their extremes. And the happy abandon with which the money supply has been (and still is being) expanded in recent years in many countries across the planet, is I’m guessing, causing the rising prices. There is ever more mad cash chasing a limited amount of stuff. Sure there are other issues at play such as high energy costs, resource depletion, pollution, the slow unwinding of global trade and let’s not forget the health subject which dare not be named. It’s a mess.
There’s an old saying about ‘two ways to be broke’. One way is to have things to buy, but no money (The Great Depression). The other way is to have plenty of money, but nothing to buy. Either way is probably a sub-optimal outcome, and who knows, we might yet discover that the opposite of one bad historical experience, is another bad historical experience. Time will tell.
This week has been much hotter and drier than since, I dunno, maybe a year. It’s nice to experience some summer weather, although as the photo of Ollie above shows, it all has come as a bit of a shock.
My favourite national youth music radio station, Triple J ran it’s Hot 100 and Hot 200 countdown of songs from last year over two days. The audience votes for the songs and I believe they processed 2.5 million votes, which is not bad for a population of 25 million people. I’ve been listening to the station and annual countdown since about 1993 and it brings me a lot of joy.
Whilst enjoying the countdown, I got to work installing a small off grid solar power system in the new shed project. Unfortunately, the Editor and I had to haul 24 of the decade-and-a-bit-old sealed lead acid batteries down to the shed site. The things weigh over 50kg (110 pounds) each and I was glad to have that job completed.
Five old spare solar panels were installed onto the roof of the shed. It’s utterly bonkers that second hand these super high-tech items have almost no value. So a few years ago I picked up a stash of them for various future projects. Now the solar panels are on the roof and in use, and they work fine. Unfortunately, due to the heat this week, working on a roof is no easy experience. I had to get up early in order to install the solar panels and avoid the heat, and I’m no fan of getting up early. Spare a thought for me (and the long suffering Editor).
Then it took another day and a half of work in a hot shed in order to wire up the small power system. The batteries and panels are all working perfectly despite their age.
We’ve continued to add layers of crushed rock with lime to the surfaces of the new shed project. Some readers expressed concern about erosion on the downhill side of the shed site and the next photo shows how that issue is being tackled.
In other farm news:
The above photo says it all, and is a good sign as to the overall health of the trees surrounding the farm.
Persimmons are very late flowering and fruiting trees, and that combination works well here in these cold and (previously) damp growing seasons.
The hundreds of kiwi fruit are also swelling on the vines. The plants are prolific producers, but it is very difficult to time exactly when to harvest the fruit. Pick too early and the fruit is rock hard and unpleasant tasting. Too late, and the fruit ferments and goes too soft.
Onto the flowers:
The temperature outside now at about 9.00pm is 22’C (72’F). So far this year there has been 33.8mm (1.3 inches) which is the same as last weeks total of 33.8mm (1.3 inches)